The EU Parliament’s grocery shop isn’t accepting cash – that matters more than you might think

Having a choice between contactless and cash payments could become much harder as the EU flirts with digital currency over all. Karsten Ottenberg, CEO of bank note specialist Giesecke & Devrient, holds a mobile phone for cashless paying and a new hybrid-banknote at a press conference in Munich, Germany, 11 May 2010. EPA/PETER KNEFFEL


When it comes to scoops, this month’s revelation by Brussels Signal’s Peter Caddle that the Delhaize Shop & Go in the European Parliament refuses to take cash might seem fairly small fry.

Sure, you might reply, it’s technically breaking Belgian law which stipulates that all shops accept cash, but it’s just one small grab-and-go store in the heart of the Brussels Bubble that is a law unto itself and doesn’t have anything to do with the rest of us.

But it does. This blessing of cashless-ness is happening in the European Parliament that votes on legislation that impacts 447.7 million inhabitants of the European Union’s 4 million square kilometres.

And the European Central Bank (ECB), one of seven institutions of the European Union, is openly “thinking about launching a central bank digital currency in Europe”, arguing that “a digital euro would provide an anchor of stability for our money in the digital age”.

As they say, don’t let the history of every tyrant and dictator running on a pledge of providing “an anchor of stability” get in the way of “accessible, robust, safe, efficient” monetary policy, as the ECB puts it.

While the ECB offers the reassurance that a digital euro would “complement the current offering of cash and wholesale central bank deposits”, the Delhaize Shop & Go in the European Parliament indicates it might not be that straightforward – or assured.

Already in plenty of shops and cafés in the likes of Brussels, Berlin and London, cash is no longer accepted and you must pay by card or with your smart phone – or go without.

Around half the world’s governments are looking into introducing a central bank digital currency or CBDC, a digital version of fiat money that would be issued and regulated by the state, writes Alex Klaushofer, a former journalist and public policy expert who focuses on dystopian trends.

She highlights how the drive towards digital currency is also twinned with introducing digital ID, yet the “mainstream commentary on CBDCs and digital ID by the media and think tanks rests on the assumption that such developments are inevitable, part of the progress towards a future that’s already written”.

The result, she warns, is an “occlusion of the fundamental questions” by the Fourth Estate: “Will these developments promote human flourishing? Are they in the interests of ordinary people? What do they mean for the rights and freedoms that have long been taken as central to a good society?”

A poster for George Lucas’ 1971 science fiction film THX 1138 which is set in a dystopian world where sex is forbidden and emotions have been eradicated. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images).

“CBDCs won’t just alter our relationship with money but with government,” Laura Dodsworth tells Brussels Signal. Having emerged during the pandemic as a latter-day Cassandra warning about how the UK Government utilised fear to manipulate the country’s population, Dodsworth has recently co-authored Free Your Mind: The new world of manipulation and how to resist it, an analysis of modern techniques used to “nudge” and influence people without their realising it.

“Governments around the world have shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies during the management of the Covid pandemic,” Dodsworth argues. “Behavioural science has been leveraged to manipulate, incentivise and coerce us into behaving as model citizens.”

Hence when it comes to digital currencies, Dodsworth cautions about finding ourselves in a position where we have “to negotiate with Daddy State” if we want to be able “to spend our ‘pocket money'” as we wish.

We are already looking at a very different sort of society morphing in front of our eyes due to the increasing impact of technology – and the loss of cash would continue a drive toward a less humane world. Money, for all the evil and misery it has caused – which is actually more to do with the concept behind it, wealth – plays a significant humanising role in myriad ways that benefit both individuals and communities.

It enables the likes of children’s pocket money, a simple and easy cash gift from a grandparent to a grandchild, a few coins given to a homeless person on the street. It facilitates a fresh cucumber bought through an honesty box on an outdoor table in a village. It lets you easily provide a donation to a cause, organisation, or church of worship that you believe in.

It enables you to do what you choose to do, and not what the state would prefer you to do.

I appreciate how the act of being able to buy a cheap coin-purchased cucumber might not seem significant, but society and everyday life is made up of countless small indices that influence one another. And we are tinkering with these delicate relationships at an unprecedented scale as the West succumbs to what the Pope recently described as “creeping utilitarianism”, in which those who are deemed non-useful and economically unproductive – such as the unborn and the elderly – are dispensed with.

The elderly are already  suffering due to this shift to cashless society, which requires carrying a smart phone all the time and usually involves the use of multiple apps – a level of tech savviness that many elderly simply don’t have and which can cause acute distress due to confusion and uncertainty. It can also cause significant inconvenience and potential harm if they cannot pay for something vital.

To all those who say that concerns about cashless society risking dystopian drift are overblown, or that governments would not dare “censor” or interfere with your buying power, I offer one word – although it conjures many words such as government overreach, fear-mongering, “nudging”, mass media consensus, following the wrong science, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World – and a word that the EU still has difficulties addressing in an ingenuous manner:


A drive through farm shop established at Tulley’s Farm, where contactless payment is taken on the end of a pole to observe social distancing in Turners Hill, England, 3 April 03, 2020. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

As Klaushofer and others note, the Draconian measures taken by governments during Covid-19 should give everyone serious pause when it comes to digital currencies and moving toward a framework of cashless payments.

In Canada, for example – a country currently offering numerous grim examples of dystopian drift, from state sanctioned euthanasia to thought crimes – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau froze the bank accounts of people protesting against a law stipulating that all truckers be vaccinated to cross the US-Canada border.

Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis argues that:

“Covid should have taught us, you give these people an inch, they are going to take a mile.”

Something to think about the next time you buy a cucumber.